Elaine Blaisdell Cumberland Times-News
MCHENRY — Despite dealing with multiple challenges like construction cost overruns, a faltering economy and the Wisp Resort filing for bankruptcy in October, the Adventure Sports Center International remains a focal point in promoting tourism, according to Matt Taylor, executive director of ASCI.
Garrett County commissioners made a public statement Tuesday that they met in executive session to discuss legal, financial and personnel implications of the $3 million debt obligations ASCI incurred because of unanticipated construction costs.
“ASCI has become the nexus it was intended to be, despite the aforementioned challenges,” said Taylor in an email to the Times-News. “The bottom line is that the facility was never intended to operate with debt, and Tuesday’s statements by the commissioners mark an important step in a long process to restructure and eliminate that debt so that ASCI can continue its core missions of promoting adventure tourism and healthy, active outdoor lifestyles.”
The debt was incurred during cost overruns in construction of the actual whitewater course and pond, according to Taylor. ASCI broke ground on the whitewater facility in 2004 and opened in the spring of 2007.
“The ASCI whitewater course is a one-of-a-kind facility and a combination of unique building challenges and high cost of materials. Most of the facility was built in the years following Hurricane Katrina, which greatly inflated certain material and transportation costs (that) led to the overruns,” said Taylor.
ASCI is a nonprofit entity and not under the authority of the board of county commissioners, according to Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator. The financial institutions involved with the debt collection are Susquehanna Bank and First United Bank & Trust.
Adventure Sports Chairman Duane Yoder said the group may consider transferring ownership to Garrett County or Garrett College.
The venture has received $4.1 million from the state, $2.9 million in federal funds, $1.3 million from Garrett County and $2 million from the sales of land donated by DC Development LLC, owner of the Wisp at Deep Creek Mountain Resort.
“ASCI has carried this debt from its opening in 2007 and we have operated for five successful seasons and intend to open in 2012 for our best season yet,” said Taylor.
The debt will not affect operations or the 2014 World Championship Canoe and Kayak Slalom Races, according to Taylor.
“The world championship is a real successful event for us. All along it has been part of our business plan to get corporate sponsors for this event, and this debt makes it hard to have corporate sponsors,” said Taylor.
“We have been in negotiation with the banks for years, and ASCI’s default is part of a structured process to eliminate the debt and allow us to focus on preparation and promotion for Deep Creek 2014. ASCI continues to work with state, local and banking leaders to find a long-term solution.”
In addition to successfully guiding more than 55,000 people down the whitewater course, welcoming more than 200,000 visitors, and hosting eight national and international competitions, ASCI has also developed widely recognized environmental education programs with Garrett County public schools, according to Taylor.
The commissioners will compile their positions and comments on this situation and plan to provide a more detailed review during their Feb. 7 public session, according to Pagenhardt.
Contact Elaine Blaisdell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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